Lands for Parks, Public Amenities and Municipal Reserves
Dedicated lands have a long history in Saskatchewan, dating back to 1911. Today, dedicated lands are intended for public amenity and environmental protection. They may be used for parks, open spaces, playgrounds, beaches, shorelines, natural areas, trails, walkways, sports fields, and recreational facilities like public rinks, community leisure centres, pools and libraries. These lands can provide social and economic benefits through recreation and tourism. Types of dedicated lands include environmental reserve, municipal reserve, buffer strips, walkways and public reserves.
Municipalities and the approving authority determine the need for and location of dedicated lands during the review of subdivision applications. In certain cases, dedication may be deferred or a monetary settlement arranged in lieu of dedication.
1. Provision and Ownership
Anyone subdividing land must provide without compensation, dedicated lands to the municipality in which the land is located.
The provision, ownership, use and sale of dedicated lands is governed by The Planning and Development Act, 2007 (Act) and The Dedicated Land Regulations, 2009 (regulations). Each of these should be consulted for more detail.
The provincial Director of Community Planning and the municipality in which a subdivision is located determine the type and location of dedicated lands during the review of a subdivision application. For subdivisions under the jurisdiction of a council or authority that has been declared an approving authority pursuant to section 13 of the Act, this determination is made without the involvement of the provincial Director of Community Planning.
Upon registration of title, all dedicated lands become the property of the municipality in which they are located, except in some instances where ownership is retained by the Crown under section 189 of the Act.
When subdivision occurs along a lakeshore, land is dedicated for public use between the waterbody and the private property. Additional information can be found on the Water Security Agency's Shoreline Development and Dedicated Lands page about the portion of the shoreline that is public, common misconceptions and permit requirements.
2. Permitted Uses, Leases and Easements
Dedicated lands are intended to be used for public parks, public recreation areas, school purposes, natural areas, public buildings or facilities, and other uses mentioned in section 192 the Act and section 6 of the regulations. Municipalities are also able to negotiate with developers the land for municipal utility parcels (e.g. MU1) to accommodate public works and public utilities.
All dedicated lands, except walkways, may be leased to any person or incorporated organization for the uses permitted within the regulations. Lessees may be responsible for maintenance, liability and other items negotiated with the municipal council subject to compliance with the Act and the regulations.
Power, gas, telephone, water and sewer facilities may be located on any dedicated land if the land can still be used for its original purpose. Alternatively, municipalities may choose to locate these uses on municipal utility parcels.
Easement agreements may be registered on the title.
3. Legal Designations
Land parcels have special designations on Certificates of Title and survey plans depending on the type and use of the land. Each type of dedicated land has its own alphanumeric designation, as follows:
- Municipal Reserve MR1, MR2, etc.
- Public Reserve PR1, PR2, etc.
- Environmental Reserve ER1, ER2, etc.
- Buffer Strip PB1, PB2, etc. (owned by the Crown) or MB1, MB2, etc. (owned by the municipality)
- Walkway W1, W2, etc.
- Municipal Utility MU1, MU2, etc.
4. Environmental Reserves
Environmental reserve is land that may be environmentally sensitive or naturally hazardous for development.
These parcels may contain:
- Water courses;
- Wildlife habitat;
- Significant natural features;
- Land that is flood prone or unstable;
- Land needed to help prevent pollution;
- Land needed to preserve a creek bank or lake shore; or
- Land needed to help protect against floods.
Before 1983, such land was surveyed as public reserve. New plans must show environmental reserves as Environmental Reserve ER#.
In most cases, environmental reserve should be left in its natural state. In unique circumstances, environmental reserve may also be used for:
- Public park space;
- Access to navigable water bodies by watercraft, sea planes, and vehicles transporting watercraft;
- Access to marinas;
- Watercraft access channels through the environmental reserve to inlet marinas;
- Marina facilities owned by a public authority;
- Municipally-owned drinking water uses; and
- Storm water management facilities, subject to consultation with the appropriate government agencies.
These uses are not permitted on environmental reserves that have been dedicated to protect wildlife habitat, historical features, or significant natural features pursuant to section 8 of the regulations.
Flooding of land and the erosion of banks and shorelines can be caused, or become worsened, due to ice action. To avoid the impacts of ice action, sufficient environmental reserve should be dedicated to account for this annual occurrence. The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency or Community Planning may be able to provide assistance regarding potential impacts of ice action and the appropriate amount of environmental reserve dedication to ensure the safety and protection of people and property. It is important during the subdivision process for a surveyor to delineate the bank, shoreline and lot/parcel boundaries on a plan of proposed subdivision.
5. Municipal Reserves
Municipal reserve lands are used for recreation and leisure, and may include public parks and community buildings. Lands dedicated as municipal reserve become the property of the municipality in which they are located, and their maintenance is a local responsibility.
Municipal reserves may be used for:
- Public parks and recreation spaces;
- Buffer strips;
- School sites;
- Natural areas;
- Public buildings or facilities;
- Public utilities;
- Buildings or facilities owned by a charitable corporation;
- Agricultural or horticultural uses;
- Marinas and access to navigable water bodies; and
- Other uses that the Minister of Government Relations (minister) may prescribe by regulation.
The land may be leased for any of the permitted uses or for buildings or facilities owned by charitable corporations. New school sites must be accommodated on municipal reserve lands. Municipalities and school divisions may negotiate agreements for the joint use and maintenance of municipal reserves.
The location and suitability of land to be dedicated as municipal reserve is subject to the approval of the provincial Director of Community Planning or any council or authority that has been declared an approving authority pursuant to the Act.
New municipal reserves are to be identified on survey plans as Municipal Reserve MR#. Every subdivision for residential purposes must designate 10 per cent of its gross area as municipal reserve; for other subdivisions the designation is five per cent. The gross area includes all the proposed lots, parcels, streets and lanes and the remainder of the land being subdivided if it cannot be further subdivided.
Exemptions from the municipal reserve requirement are made for:
- Large agricultural lots;
- The first lot subdivided out of a quarter section;
- Parcels for utilities or applicable public infrastructure;
- Land previously fully dedicated as municipal reserve or money in lieu fully paid;
- Parcels for public use; and
Money-in-Lieu for Municipal Reserve
When municipal reserve is required, it can be met by the physical dedication of land, money in place of land, deferral of dedication to a later date or through a combination of these options. Municipalities should review proposed designations with a critical lens to ensure the proposal is manageable and in the best interest of the public.
The collection of cash or money in lieu of municipal reserve land dedication is more common for industrial or commercial developments and low density rural subdivisions where public parks and recreational facilities associated with each subdivision may be impractical. When money in lieu of municipal reserve is collected, it can allow for investment in parks and recreation facilities that serve the wider community or region. Accepting money in lieu of land may be preferred in some cases to ensure an equitable distribution of parks and recreation facilities throughout a municipality. This requirement may be deferred for phased developments or when a master plan shows future dedication.
Subdivision approving authorities are responsible for determining an appropriate amount for money in lieu payments.
When money in lieu of municipal reserve land is preferred, the payment must equal the value of the land that would have been dedicated and is based on the intended use of the subdivision as outlined in section 187 of the Act. The subdivision approving authority has the responsibility to determine an appropriate amount of money in lieu. In cases where Community Planning is the approving authority, the municipality in which the subdivision is located and the applicant will be consulted about the value of the land that would have been dedicated.
Deferral of the Municipal Reserve Requirement
The dedication of municipal reserve may be deferred if the subdivision application includes land to be further subdivided. This might be an area to be subdivided in stages or a new parcel to be subdivided into lots later.
When dedication is deferred, the subdivision approving authority must register an interest on the title to the land from which the reserve will be provided in the future. The interest informs future owners of this commitment. The interest may be discharged once the dedication is met by land, money or a combination of the two.
An interest can be registered on the title of land being created or on the title of other land to be subdivided.
6. Sale or Exchange
A council may propose selling municipal reserve land that is no longer needed. A council may exchange municipal reserve land for land of equal or greater value. Both the sale and exchange require a council to provide public notice, hold a public hearing and pass a bylaw which requires ministerial approval.
Municipalities are encouraged to use the new online Land Planning and Development Application to submit their bylaw for ministerial approval. Municipalities that have been declared an approving authority under the Act do not need to obtain ministerial approval. Council then registers their approved bylaw and related documents with Land Registry to complete the sale or exchange.
The sale of environmental reserve requires additional review to ensure the land in question no longer needs be retained as environmental reserve. Please contact the Community Planning branch for more information about this process.
The procedures to sell or exchange are:
7. Dedicated Lands Account
The regulations require municipalities to have a dedicated lands account separate and apart from other accounts or line items in the municipality's budget. There are two main sources of funds for a municipality's dedicated lands account:
- Money received in lieu of the municipal reserve dedication; and
- Proceeds from the sale, lease, or sublease of dedicated lands.
Funds held within a dedicated lands account have limited potential uses, including:
- Purchasing land to be dedicated for public use;
- Developing public parks and recreation facilities on existing public, municipal and environmental reserves within or outside the municipality. This allows municipalities to use funds on regional facilities;
- Upgrading or replacing existing public parks or recreation facilities on existing public, municipal and environmental reserves within or outside the municipality; and
- Developing public parks or recreation facilities on lands owned by a specified public authority, including the provincial government, a municipality, a school division, a post-secondary institution, a regional park, the Meewasin Valley Authority, the Provincial Capital Commission and the Wakamow Valley Authority, if there is an agreement between the municipal council and the public authority. This is subject to the approval of the minister, unless the municipality is a subdivision approving authority.
Municipalities may want to consider using the funds for other municipal services or infrastructure needs. However, the Act and the regulations do not allow this. Instead, servicing agreement and development levy authority of municipalities, outlined in sections 168 through 176 of the Act, address these infrastructure needs. More information on these processes can be found under Servicing Agreements for Municipalities.
8. Buffer Strips
Buffer strips are used for separating different and potentially conflicting land uses. For example, a buffer strip could separate residential and commercial areas or residential lots from major roadways. New buffer strips are identified in subdivision plans as Buffer Strip MB#.
If required by the approving authority, the developer will provide, without compensation, buffer strips during the subdivision process. The size and location are determined during subdivision review by the approving authority. In general, the land provided for buffer strips is not included in the amount of land required to be dedicated for municipal reserve. However, in unique circumstances, the subdivision approving authority may consider including buffer strip land in the municipal reserve requirement if it is accessible and usable by the public or the approving authority deems it to be in the public interest.
Buffer strips may be landscaped as a council requires or leased for horticultural or agricultural purposes. Municipal councils may sell or lease buffer strips, but cannot exchange buffer strips unless a subdivision that creates a new buffer strip is proposed.
Similar to buffer strips and environmental reserve, land for walkways is not included in the amount of land required to be dedicated for municipal reserve at the time of subdivision. Walkways are dedicated, without compensation, for the purpose of neighbourhood connectivity and secondary access pursuant to section 201 of the Act. Typical examples would be an urban walkway which provides a safe pedestrian route between streets and neighbourhoods or access trails to linear parks or beach areas. Walkways must be a minimum of 1.5 metres in width; however, the subdivision approving authority may require greater widths to accommodate recreation, connectivity and alternate modes of transportation for the community.
Prior to April 17, 1984, when amendments were made to The Planning and Development Act, 1983, walkways were titled to the Ministry of Highways. Since then, walkways have been titled to the municipality in which they are located. If a walkway is no longer considered necessary, council may consider a bylaw to close and sell all or a portion of a walkway. Typically, the walkway being closed and sold is offered to the adjacent landowner(s) at fair market value.
10. Public Reserves
The Government of Saskatchewan owned all dedicated land until January 1, 1991 when The Planning and Development Act, 1983 was amended to transfer existing dedicated lands to municipalities. The amendment eliminated the need to reissue the titles. Most public reserves were transferred by this amendment. Municipalities can apply at Information Services Corporation to have the name changed from the Crown into the name of the municipality. It is not necessary, but can be done by referencing clause 191(3)(b) of the Act.
The province kept ownership of some dedicated lands in which a provincial interest existed. This was done by issuing a Minister's Order that exempted certain lands from the transfer. Dedicated lands still owned by the Government of Saskatchewan are called public reserves. More information about public reserves can be obtained from the Community Planning branch.